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encourage loved ones to eat better

I know it can get frustrating when loved ones are not on the same page when it comes to their own health and wellness. And that’s ok… it’s taken me a while to realize this. You, as their loved one, may feel more invested in their health than they do! That’s ok because it means you care. Even though your family member may not share the same enthusiasm for their own health that you do, that’s ok, too! It’s because their priorities are different. That just means they’re human.

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 600 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.

What Motivates Them?

The key is to tap into what motivates them and then keep that momentum going.

If your partner is a sugar addict, we need to do is discover why this is. It’s often not about the sugar itself, but diving into the behavior itself.

The trick is this: remind them how much you care and how badly you want them to feel their best. In my experience, when we want loved ones to change their behavior, we might say things like, “You really need to stop eating so much sugar…” or “Don’t you understand your hurting yourself by eating this way?” Here’s the thing, they’ve heard this so many times before. Instead, we need to have an open dialogue with them. Let them vent their frustrations with regards to their own habits if they have to. Listen to them. Ask follow-up questions.

If they say, “Look, I don’t want to hear about how I need to lose weight and lay off the sugar, OK? I get it.” You can respond with, “I understand. What can I do?” They might have a witty response and say something like, “Well, you can let me be.” If they’re serious, leave them alone for now. Try again when they’re in a better mood. If you try and convince them that they need to change their behavior right now and that this can’t wait, you will soon find yourself in an argument.

When everyone’s cooled off a bit, broach the issue again gently. Consider asking something like, “In a year or so, what do you imagine our lives will be like?”

Why This is So Important

You’re making this about them and their choices. By listening to their wants and desires, you’re making it clear that you care about them as a person, and you care about their goals and motivations. This starts to break down any resistance they may be feeling. Hopefully, they won’t say something morbid like “Who knows if I’ll be around in a year.” If they do, you can always respond with, “What can I do to help prevent that from happening?”

If they start talking about their plans, you can say, “Those plans sound amazing. Let’s make it happen. But I do have a suggestion–may I share that with you?”

Notice that you don’t go right into all the reasons why you think the plans won’t work until they get their blood sugar under control. Instead, you ask permission to share your thoughts. This empowers them and makes them feel like you really care. After they give you permission to share your thoughts (and they almost always will), you can then say that you love their plans but you want you both of you feeling your best.

Think about how this message differs from what they’ve likely heard from all of their doctors. In my experience, many health professionals simply threaten the patient and discuss how much worse their lives will be if they don’t stop eating sugar or start losing weight, etc.

However, if you ask them about their experience and their feelings about the future, you motivate and empower your loved one. They’re not just taking orders from you; they’re involved in the process. You show that you really care. That will hopefully get them to open up and listen to your concerns.

Next Steps

Once you get them to listen, you can ask them how they would like to move forward with feeling their best, and how you can support them on their journey. When suggestions come from within, instead of from somewhere or someone else, we are more inclined to change our behaviors. And when it comes to changing a behavior like sugar addiction, the key to this, in the beginning at least, is to make small changes so that they understand that this change doesn’t feel like they have to give up something.

Let’s hypothetically say that one issue is drinking too much regular soda (which we know is loaded with added sugar). One first step could be to switch one of those sodas with a diet soda or another carbonated drink that’s not as high in added sugar. Or if they only like regular sodas, then drink only half the can each time and finish the rest later. The key is to make smaller substitutions, rather than larger, potentially more threatening changes.

The Bottom Line

Turn the traditional conversation about avoiding sugar and losing weight on its head. Remember: everyone is motivated by something. I gave the example of plans for the future. We just need to find that motivation. By involving them in the decision process and asking where they would like to begin, we will motivate and empower them. And that is often the perfect first step.

Listen to Dr. Neal address this topic on Episode 600 of the podcast Optimal Health Daily.